How the U.S. Political Scene Contributes to Unrest in the Middle East

By Matthew Nakamura

In the past, American intervention in the Middle East has been prompted by national agendas. In hindsight, it has also usually resulted in even more tension between nation-states in the region.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been at odds since the Iranian revolution of 1979. But it was, at least in part, U.S. ties with the Saudi nation that egged on their rivalry. As proxy wars between the two broke out in the Middle East and even abroad, an expectation of unrest was slowly associated with the area. Wars led to failed-nation states, which bred and enabled terrorist organizations.

The reality of the Middle-Eastern situation is not one which most Americans take up and consider daily. But it’s not only American politicians that have had a significant influence on the development of the modern Near East. Because the United States is a democratic republic, the American population plays a much larger role than anyone would like to admit.

Election Week

America has an election coming up in less than a week and the nation is as split as it ever has been. The presidential candidates can barely get through televised debates without a laughable amount of name calling and virtue signalling. Unfortunately, the potential future leaders of the U.S. (one of them being the current president) are only a reflection of the broader political climate. Heated debates rage online over social media platforms, rarely showing any signs of productivity.

This process has been most evident in the past two decades. In 1992, there were a decent amount of politically heterogeneous counties in most U.S. states. Now, in 2020, many people’s votes are essentially void, depending on which state they live in. The number of so called “swing states,” seems to grow fewer with every election.

The Problem with Groupthink

Glenn Geher, who has a doctorate in psychology, explains that this is largely a result of the social phenomena known as groupthink. This is when personal beliefs are based mostly on the opinions of those around you. “Groupthink is a problem. And the more polarized our nation becomes ideologically, the more we find ourselves engaging in groupthink without even realizing it.” As groupthink increases the divide between political stances, the political spectrum slowly becomes something more like a see-saw, rocking back and forth.

And rock back and forth it has. In the last half-century, the presidential office has switched party affiliations six times. Each time a new president is elected, the political party which does not support the new president’s office feels wholly dissatisfied. When the next election comes around, they then feel justified in putting forth a candidate that’s further along their political spectrum in order to undo all of the problems created over the four to eight years of dissatisfaction.

Problems for the Middle East

The problem, when it comes to the Middle East, is that America’s two political parties don’t generally agree on foreign policy in the region.

Obama’s foreign policy in the Mideast was characterized by increased ties with Iran and eventually some support for the Saudi Arabian attacks in Yemen. Trump, on the other hand, pulled out of the nuclear treaty with Iran set up by the Obama administration, and then proceeded to impose extreme oil sanctions on the nation.

Trump has ignored views expressed by his own party by supplying Saudi Arabia with an $8 billion dollar arms deal. Conversely, a Biden administration would mean a complete stop to the military backing of Saudi Arabia. (This is because the Democratic opinion on the Civil War in Yemen has changed since it began in 2014.) Similarly, Trump has shown heavy support for Israel as a nation, while Biden has vowed to restore U.S. aid to Palestine.

As U.S. support for various nations in the Middle East continues to change with the tides, we can expect to witness continued or increased unrest in the nations.

With the U.S. presidential election coming up, Americans must keep in mind the extent to which domestic political turmoil carries over into foreign nations. In the modern world, the individual has impact beyond what he or she could predict. It is a world in which a post on social media or an unwillingness to listen to another’s point of view might just contribute toward something much more deadly thousands of miles away.

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